Two little stories succinctly explain one of the main reasons our government is so dysfunctional. The first came from the Washington Post:
Three out of every four lobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in the federal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill, a Washington Post analysis shows.
Key lobbying hires include 18 former members of Congress and dozens of former presidential appointees. For other senior management positions, the industry employs two former directors of the Minerals Management Service, the since-renamed agency that regulates the industry, and several top officials from the Bush White House. Federal inspectors once assigned to monitor oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have landed jobs with the companies they regulated.
With more than 600 registered lobbyists, the industry has among the biggest and most powerful contingents in Washington. Its influence has been on full display in the wake of the BP oil disaster: Proposals to enact new restrictions or curb oil use have stalled amid concerted Republican opposition and strong objections from Democrats in oil-producing states.
This just may have something to do with the inexcusable failure of energy and climate legislation. Of course, the problem is even worse. As explained by HuffPo's Ryan Grim:
Lobbyists for major banks, insurers, pharmaceutical firms, energy companies and at least one foreign government have been helping organize lavish gatherings of staffers and members of Congress since early 2009, funneling K Street money through an officially chartered staff organization called the Congressional Cigar Association.
The CCA, founded by Republican staffers and sponsored by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), is chartered by the House Administration Committee to encourage networking among congressional staff. Its most recent gathering was held Tuesday at a townhouse just steps from the Capitol, where staffers were feted by Miami Cigar & Company.
As evening fell, guests lounged in the garden out back, sipping cold drinks and puffing away on what smelled like high-end cigars. Gary Pesh, owner of Old Virginia Tobacco and a member of the Congressional Cigar Association, said the event is just an excuse to "get together and have fun." When asked about the conflict of interest inherent in allowing lobbyists to fund a congressional staff organization, dozens of attendees just continued wordlessly on up the red brick steps. "This is approved by the House, so we're good," one staffer said. (Another staffer told HuffPost that filming wasn't allowed, though she was standing under a sign warning passersby that the area was under video surveillance.)
Your government is owned, and unless you're a wealthy corporate person, it's not owned by you.